*** This review may contain long grey haired spoilers ***
The Freeling family have sent Carol Anne to auntie Pat (not the one from Eastenders) who lives in a luxurious skyscraper, unaware that the evil spirit in limbo, Rev. Henry Kane, has come to get little Carol Anne and take her back to the spirit world.
From the director of the unrated horror gem Dead and Buried – Gary Sherman, comes Poltergeist III. Made in a time when sequels usually weren’t very good, Sherman’s offering is unfairly written off by critics, which is a shame given that it’s tragically the late Heather O’Rourke’s final performance.
That’s not to say Poltergeist III is perfect by any stretch, there are some lapse in story logic and lose ends, what did happen to Donna’s boyfriend, Scott (Kipley Wentz), why did Pat have a change of heart? At one point Tom Skerritt’s Bruce Gardner casually is talking about the buildings issues after witnessing a supernatural occurrence. There’s many issues that hamper Sherman’s and Brian Taggert screenplay. Whether it’s the editing, script changes or a lack of enthusiasm after O’Rourke’s untimely death, who knows, but what works are the practical special effects which prevents Sherman’s offering dating too much. There are very few optical effects, to Sherman’s credit it’s all pulled off with cleverly executed old school camera tricks, lighting, reverse shots, body doubles and literally smoke and mirrors. Refreshingly there’s not a TV in sight.
Along with O’Rourke, Zelda Rubinstein are the only original cast to return. The first act is the most effective with Lara Flynn Boyle (in her prime) and cast giving some good performances. Then in the second act there’s cliché partying teenage subplot which reduces Boyle efforts as Donna redundant, although she is quite menacing and scary when she bursts out of Tangina’s body or when Boyle later has part of her face pealed off. Co-star Nancy Allen is emotional as the auntie but her character is never fleshed out. Acting veteran Tom Skerritt is on his usual fine form when he’s not spending his time smooching, hugging or snogging Allen’s character’s hands or kissing Boyle. Nevertheless, there is a great setup where they go over to the other-side and are trapped by snow covered cars and a shock moment when they get attacked in a lift. The closing act wastes both Skerritt and Allen as they spend most of their time running around the building with the rest of the cast being put on the bench never to be substituted until seconds of the end.
The cityscape and location is captured wonderfully which gives it an air of realism making it feel uneasy in contrast to the fantasy horror elements. Joe Renzetti’s music is fitting, the creepy make up effects are outstanding and will get hairs standing on end. There’s plenty of jump scares, mainly the eerie reflections or zombie-like hands popping up with the sound design to complement the on screen shenanigans. The lapses in logic aside there’s many spine chilling set ups scattered throughout and I’d be a very rich man if I had a fiver every time some said Carol-Anne.
Overall, it’s not perfect and of its day but there’s plenty of horror segments that are worth checking out. If it didn’t have a real life tragedy surrounding it maybe it would have gained something of a cult following.